Always eager to network and find ways to improve my business I was thrilled to be invited to Blogger Weekend at Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont along with seven other bloggers. The added bonus: Our families were invited so we could experience Smugglers’ together as a family.
Our usual idea of “family vacation” is our family visiting extended family in different parts of the country. We never considered visiting a family resort (because of a limited budget and minimal vacation time)Â until this fabulous weekend away.
The only part planned for the bloggers was a Saturday morning session. Three presenters shared their wisdom with us; “Building a Personal Brand” with Nicole Ravlin of People Making Good, “Creating a Hyperlocal Community that Works” with Dana Freeman, founder and editor of Find and Go Seek Vermont, and “Using Google Analytics to Discover Reader Behavior” with Bill Patton, director of interactive services at HMC2 marketing agency.
Other bloggers present: Jen Carsen, www.mommytries.com, Lauren Cracower-Manitt, midnight-mom.blogspot.com, Kate Laddison, www.kidsvt.com, Kami Lewis Levin, www.workingmomfence.com, Emilie Manhart, www.onemominmaine.com, Charlene Oliver, www.charlenechronicles.com, and Alisa Sklar, www.montrealfamilies.com.
Although I wish there had been more time to get to know the presenters and invited bloggers, we were all eager to explore Smugglers’ with our families.
The rest of the weekend was ours to plan–most of it arranged in advance at no cost to my family except for food– and explore the many family activities available at Smugglers’ Notch. The hard part was trying to decide among so many great options what we wanted to do in just a few days.
We enjoyed our weekend more than we imagined. We loved having an active vacation without having to bring all the adventure accessories with us, making this an easy and stress free vacation to pack for. By the end of the weekend we felt it was our home away from home–finding a balance between active playtime and no-stress down time. My kids are already asking when we can go back. Besides having fun, I was impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone was. I think good customer service is rare these days so I always appreciate when a business also values excellent customer service.
My boys are almost ten; old enough to participate in everything they were interested in. I saw height limitations for some of the water slides and that children need to be 8 years old for some of the activities. I advise checking these details in advance to avoid disappointment. Smugglers’ does offer day programs for kids and even has a babysitting service, which may come in handy depending on the age of your children and which activities you wish to do.
Our family itinerary:
Route: Providence to Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont
Drive Time: @ 5 hrs
We traveled via Ben & Jerry’s Factory in Waterbury, VT to tour our favorite ice cream factory.
Details: Kids under 12 are free. Adults – $3. I found out during Blogger Weekend that if I had checked in using Four Square — adults get free admission.
The tour is short but fun and includes a small ice cream sample at the end. Playground and flavor graveyard located outside up the hill next to the parking lot.
We arrived at Smugglers’ Notch around 5pm.
Lodging: We stayed at the Kestrels in the North Hill Community. We had extremely nice, clean accommodations: 3 bedrooms, 2 bath (w/ a Jacuzzi), full kitchen, dining room, living room and screened in porch. Our condo was located near the North Hill Aquatics & Exercise Center — open till 9pm. My kids enjoyed the water park and jacuzzi located inside and the heated pool and mini slide located outside.
Dinner: We ordered pizza to-go from Riga-Bello’s in the Village Center. This casual pizza place has plenty of tables for dining-in but we preferred eating and relaxing in the condo where we could also make a salad, enjoy our own beverages and play card games in our PJs.
While I attended the bloggers conference at The Mountain Grill, my family slept in and played games at the condo before heading out to play Mini Golf followed by a hike up to Notchville Park — with 3 pools, a lily pad walk, twister slide, water cannons, and adjacent rock climbing wall. My boys thought this spot was awesome.
We met for lunch at the condo and had planned to canoe at Rum Runners’ Hideaway (a short walk from Smugglers’ Notch) but a severe thunderstorm came through while we were eating. Once the storm passed, we opted for a bike ride instead of boating. We rented bikes next to the Nature Center. They gave us a map and offered several possible bike routes. We chose to take an hour ride out of Smugglers’ along Rt. 108 (a busy road, so kids need to be cautious) onto a quiet rural road. I could have stayed out longer but the boys, not used to biking on hills, tired easily.
We returned the bikes in time for my husband to take a Segway (a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle) tour. Riding a motorized vehicle is not something he would normally choose — thinking if you are at the mountains one should be hiking rather than riding — but he loved it. The group went off road on the Seqways and toured part way up the mountain. After his trek, he met up with us at the Courtside Pool located near the Mini Golf and FunZone.
DINNER: Although we originally planned to cook back at the condo, we decided to linger at the pool and opted instead for a late dinner at The Mountain Grill. The food was fine and reasonably priced but my preference if not so rushed, is cooking our own meals and dining in the condo.
We had breakfast in before heading to ArborTrek Canopy Adventures (located about a 5 minute drive out of Smugglers’) for a 10:15am Canopy and Zip Line Tour reservation. If you like adventure, this activity is perfect. Built in December, this Zip Line allows you to soar through the forests as you ride up to 4,500 feet of zip lines, cross sky bridges high above the forest floor, and rappel from trees.
Groups of 8 guests escorted by 2 experienced tour guides – outfitted with helmets, harnesses, and gloves – glide along cables at high speed (the longest zip line is over 900 feet long and as high as 75 feet off the ground) for what seems to be a thrilling 2 Â½ adventure through the woods.
Children need to weigh around 70 pounds to zip by themselves. If they are under the weight limit they may be allowed to ride tandem with one of the guides (as one of my sons did for half of the lines). If the kids are too light they may not be able to zip from one platform to the next without getting stuck on the line and having to pull themselves in or require a guide to zip out and pull them in.
I admire my family for taking part in this adventure and awed by husbands courage and bravery as he was the one who watched our sons, up close, jump off the platform and fly off alone through the trees, with nothing holding them but a cable attached to their waist. I was not on the platform with them because I do not share the same thrill for adventure or the courage to participate in this type of sport (norÂ am I a fan of roller coasters or fast cars). And although one of my sons, who tends to be cautious about heights and speed, was hesitant at first, he amazed us by joining in on the adventure once he completed the practice zip line in the field out back of the ArborTrek office.
While my family was on the tour I chose to stay close to the ground and hike. Nate from ArborTrek gave me a map for the Hemlock Trail that intersects with the Zip Line tour in a couple of places. This trail is beautiful and peaceful, meandering through the woods and along the stream.
It was so peaceful that I was taken by surprise during my hike when I saw a flash of orange and the sound of what I soon realized was the guide whizzing past me on the Zip Line. Looking in his direction I could now see the cable stretched above the ravine, camouflaged by the trees, with no beginning or end in site. I then saw the next person to zip by was one of my sons, looking straight ahead with a smile on his face. At that moment I felt an out of body parental experience.
Watching my son soar past me, alone without knowing I was near (or seeming to need me), appearing confident and having fun on what seemed a perilous adventure, was a new experience for me. I felt elation, panic, and pride all mixed together. While my son was probably thinking Peter Pan, Indiana Jones, or Superman, my first thought was to be scared and want to find a way to protect him. I know that my job as a parent is giving my children space to grow and try new things, allowing them freedom at the appropriate times, while trusting they will be safe when they venture out on their own. Easier said then done.
I was able to wave to my family later on their journey and take a few photos before meeting up with them when they came in on their last zip line. They were all exhilarated by what they described as an amazing experience. And whether I am ready for it or not my sons are growing up as they should — confident to try new things– and for now still eager to share these experiences with mom and dad.
After the adventurous morning, the boys were starving. We treated them to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the Village Center before heading back to the condo for sandwiches.
We had a 3pm reservation at Green River Kayaking on Rt 15 in Jeffersonville (about a 15 minute drive from Smugglers’ Notch). The folks at Green River drive (and then deposit) you and your kayaks up river. We opted for the shorter trip — about a 1 Â½ hour paddle in two tandem kayaks back to our car at the Green River Kayaking rental shop.
NOTE OF CAUTION: I always advise before heading out on or near water, to review water safety with your family. And before heading out on a kayak where there is a possibility of capsizing, I recommend not bringing unnecessary items and protect what you bring from water by storing them in a waterproof bag.
After kayaking we headed back to Smugglers’ Notch even though there seemed to be some lovely family restaurants and a coffee shop in Jeffersonville worth trying. Maybe next time.
Since my boys decided at the start of our vacation to try all the pools and waterslides before leaving Smugglers’, we headed to the Mountainside Water playground after kayaking. My boys liked using the inner tubes down the giant water slide and I liked that I could order a cocktail and snack poolside.
Realizing now that our vacation was winding down, we needed to decide what we had time left to try. The boys were eager to try the FunZone, a giant inflatable tent filled with inflatable slides, video games, mini golf, and open daily from 3 – 8pm. This is a great option for a rainy day. On such a nice day I would have preferred to stay outside, but kids under 12 need to be accompanied by an adult, meaning my husband and I hung needed to hang out in the entry while the boys played. Next time I would bring a book. Also important to note, kids need socks to play in the space. Luckily we knew that.
After another long day of activities, we were not in the mood to cook and decided to again order take-out and enjoy our food back at the condo. We ordered pizza from Stella Notte located just outside Smuggler’s Notch on Route 108. The wood grilled pizza was delicious.
We needed to check out by 11am so we packed up our gear and cleaned up the condo before heading out. By this time the boys had tried all the swimming pools and chose Notchville Park as their favorite spot to return to.
This was my favorite water spot as well. Although we did not take advantage of it, there is also a shady area with picnic tables and grills for cooking. We did use the showers in the locker room where we could wash and change before leaving the resort.
Our trip home included a stop at the Snowflake Bentley museum in Jericho, VT. I love the real life story of the amazing man Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley who adapted a microscope to a bellows camera, and after years of trial and error became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885. Share the award winning book, Snowflake Bentley written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian with your kids.
We packed a lot of memories into our 2 Â½ days at Smugglers’ Notch Resort. If we had more time, I think we would play tennis, bike more, check out the Nature Center, take more hikes and allow more time relaxing on the porch.